Bratina critics - by jumping on casino issue now - give him a get-out-of-jail-free pass

Bratina critics - by jumping on casino issue now - give him a get-out-of-jail-free pass

Hamilton’s mayor is meeting later this month with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission to explore the possibilities of a casino in Hamilton, The Globe and Mail revealed in their Thursday edition.

The reaction of his critics to this meeting, with no evidence of nefarious activity,  is only going to give Bratina a get-out-of-jail free card.

A scandal?

The Hamilton Spectator states “councillors are already raising concerns about the mayor’s decision to pursue a casino without their direction.”

The article quotes one councillor – Sam Merulla – as opposed. No other councillors are quoted or citied despite the plural.

Another peculiar paragraph in the article states “Bratina wouldn’t offer any additional comment or explanation to The Spectator.” Yet, the line following quotes the mayor’s chief of staff Peggy Chapman, noting she responded by email to “The Spectator on Friday.”

Friday being Good Friday, a statutory holiday, The Spectator should provide readers with background explaining the significance of the mayor’s chief of staff responding in place of the mayor. When was the mayor asked for comment? Did he respond with a refusal to comment or was it implied by silence?

Having a spokeperson rely on a holiday is usually sufficient, why is it not in this case?

Helping the mayor to rally his supporters

The mayor’s supporters see a plot by The Hamilton Spectator to discredit and scandalize all actions by the mayor. Framing this story in this manner, especially at such an early stage, only fuels the mayor’s supporters.

At this time, there are few confirmed facts. This includes that the mayor is scheduled to meet with OLG officials to explore the possibility of a casino in Hamilton. There is no resolution by council taking a position on the casino.

Exploring ideas is not a scandal of itself.

The mayor – or any member of council – is allowed to hold exploratory meetings. It is entirely normal for mayor’s to do so – it’s what they do.They explore ideas and report their findings to council for a decision.

At this time, there is no evidence to show the mayor is making decisions without council approval or worse – as was the case with LRT – contradicting the position of council.

If the mayor takes unilateral actions outside of his authority (again), that’s when his critics can pounce. Until then, they are best served by keeping vigilant watch over the mayor.

Giving the mayor a get-out-of-jail-free card

[![]( "GET OUT OF JAIL FREE")]( "Get Out of Jail Free" card from the game Monology
By pouncing on every non-to-minor issue, the mayor’s critics are granting him a get out of jail free card.

The public becomes deaf to real scandals, having hear the word too many times.

The mayor’s recent censure did not resonate widely with a broad range of the public tired of all the -gates at City Hall.

Mayor Bratina’s support runs deep in many pockets of the city. Critics of the mayor, to be successful, must convince his supporters – which numbered 52,684 on election day in 2010 – to believe they made a mistake electing Bratina.

Members of council wishing to form a counter-balance to the mayor’s office must be mindful of triggering a backlash from Bratina supporters. Bratina won all wards in Hamilton with the exception of wards 1, 8, and 10. Ward 4, Sam Merulla’s ward, gave Bratina his largest percentage victory within the old city.

Wait for the next scandal, don’t create it

Mayor Bratina and his chief of staff have show a particular talent for getting themselves into hot water. There’s little to show they’ve learned from their past mistakes. There’s no need for his critics to create scandal.

The desire for scandal only gives Bratina opportunity to diminish critics and rally his supporters. The narrative of “trouble-makers on council” appeals to the Bratina base that started to abandon him in December. If Bratina can get them back into his fold – especially Bill Kelly at 900CHML – he wins.

All his critics need to do is to keep pouncing on shadows.